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Congressman Kennedy, and many others, fear the effects of massive deportations

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The rally on Tuesday that Congressman Joe Kennedy III helped organize at the Irish Famine Memorial to protest President Trump’s evolving immigration policies was intended to mobilize the faithful.

Though it was quickly arranged and modest in scale, the sight of Bostonians ready to resist on short notice ultimately offered some solace to him as well.


“You can’t overstate how important those moments are, especially for a member of the congressional minority like I am at the moment,” Kennedy said by phone after the rally. “It gives you a bit of bounce in your step to go back and fight.”

Boston has been home to numerous protests in the short reign of Trump. The release of his latest plans Tuesday morning to facilitate mass deportations of undocumented immigrants
was the latest cause for anxiety.

Though many specifics have yet to be announced, the administration is clearly laying the groundwork for deportations on a large scale and on broad grounds. Federal officials are signaling their willingness to remove undocumented immigrants who would have had little fear of removal before. The notion that deportation was reserved for serious criminals may no longer be operative.

Kennedy said he worries that deeply stepped-up deportations will have tragic effects on families who may have entered the country illegally, but in search of greater opportunities and better lives.

“I’ve spent some time in Latin America,” said Kennedy, a Peace Corps veteran. “I’ve been to a number of those countries that these kids are coming from, and heard stories of violence and desperation. What parent wouldn’t do all they could for their son or daughter?”


Under the Obama administration, undocumented immigrants convicted of serous crimes had been the primary targets for deportation. Under Department of Homeland Security rules released Tuesday, undocumented immigrants who have committed any crime at all would become prime candidates for deportation. Even Trump, as a candidate, had maintained that serious criminals would remain the primary targets for deportation. He’s now moving well beyond that position.

No one knows how mass deportations would work in practice. At a minimum, it would require a massive and costly law enforcement effort. Other countries would likely have to agree to accept the return of their citizens. It isn’t hard to imagine some of them balking.

Eva Millona, director of the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said she and other advocates support the general proposition of immigration reform — but they don’t believe Trump’s plans are workable or effective.

“It’s really a pretty depressing picture,” she said. “We’re looking for solutions that involve both parties and go back to the principles that both parties agreed on.”

Candidate Trump sold a vision of undocumented immigrants as miscreants taking jobs from US workers. There’s not much evidence to support that. Most immigrants are simply raising families and living their lives. Yes, some break the law. So do plenty of US citizens.

Mass deportations, if they come about, would tear communities apart, opponents assert. Not just immigrant communities, either. The people who wonder what the future holds for them are our friends, colleagues, and neighbors, Kennedy noted.

Perhaps, as some Trump backers assert, his original position is just a starting point in a longer negotiation. Without question, he ran on a pledge to crack down on illegal immigration, promising pretty much what he is now delivering. Millions of people voted for this.

That doesn’t do much to lessen the anguish and anxiety. “Putting up walls and deporting members of our communities aren’t going to solve problems of globalization,” Kennedy said. “Ripping parents from their children isn’t going to increase your wages.”

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at adrian.walker@
. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.

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